Troopers: Seat belts save lives

Seat belts save lives.

That’s the message troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) are again stressing to motorists.

“There is simply no disputing that wearing a safety belt can save your life,” OSHP Lt. Anne R. Ralston said.

She said that is why they are encouraging all motorists to buckle-up.

OSHP Sgt. Brian Jordan said when safety belts aren’t worn, the chance for serious injury is much higher in a crash.

“There is a direct correlation with wearing your seatbelt and being injured a lot worse than you would have been,” Jordan said.

He said there is no easier and more effective piece of equipment that can be worn for people to protect themselves in a vehicle.

But, not only do motorists and passengers need to wear safety belts every time they are in a vehicle, they also need to wear them correctly, the way the manufacturer intended them to be worn, Jordan reminded.

For those who still argue that safety belts could do more harm than good, Jordan said the chances of someone being injured because of a seatbelt are much lower than being injured without it.

He said the safety belt law in Ohio remains a secondary violation, but troopers continue a zero tolerance enforcement policy when motorists are stopped for other violations and are found to not be wearing their safety belts.

“If we pull them over for anything else and they are not wearing a seatbelt, they will be cited,” Jordan said.

In 2011, approximately 65 percent of the people killed on Ohio’s roadways were not wearing a safety belt. During the first eight months of 2012, safety belt citations by Ohio troopers increased 16 percent compared to the same time period last year.

Jordan said safety belt citations are down in Auglaize County, but that has been impacted by less manpower as well as a focus placed on preventing additional crashes in Mercer County, where there have been 16 people killed in 14 fatal crashes to date this year. Many of those motorists were ejected from their vehicles because safety belts were not used.

By comparison, there have been three fatal crashes in Auglaize County and with just one of those deaths impacted by someone not wearing a safety belt.

In 2011, troopers issued 548 safety belt citations in Auglaize County. To date this year, they have issued 391 such citations.

Jordan said not only are they down in safety belt citations, but they are down in the number of crashes they have handled and in citations for other violations this year as well.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, safety belts save more than 13,000 lives every year and remain the single most effective thing a motorist or passenger can do to protect himself in a crash.

“We are reminded every day that far too many people are still failing to buckle-up,” OSHP Superintendent Col. John Born said. “It is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your friends.”

According to Ohio’s 2011 Observational Seatbelt Survey, 84.12 percent of motorists were found to be in compliance with Ohio’s safety belt law, a significant increase from the 72.9 percent observed 10 years ago.

While these rates have steadily increased, far too many Ohioans still do not buckle-up, Ralston said.

Troopers ask that everyone wear their safety belts every time they ride in a vehicle and insist that those who travel with them buckle-up as well.